Maintaining a regular guitar practice schedule is key to becoming an effective musician, so today we will go through how to design your own personal schedule that fits in with your lifestyle and aspirations.
The first element we need to learn is time management, which is simply allowing enough time on a set of given tasks, but is often overlooked. The best way to manage time during your practice schedule is to purchase a timer, these retail for around $15.00 to $40.00 and will be one of the most important investments you make. I personally use a timer from a company called West Bend (see figure 1.a left), but I am sure there are many other brands available, there is also an online timer too.
Now we need to set aside allotments of time for each process, this is really an individual preference but I have included my own time schedule to give you an idea of what is required. Keep in mind that large allotments of time can have a negative effect on your practicing as each day it may look daunting to see two hours of scales for instance, it is consistency we are after so shorter amounts of time to start with please.
|Personal time schedule (Rich)|
|Stretching & warm-up||3 minutes|
|Picking exercises||15 minutes|
|Music theory||40 minutes|
As you can see, having a timer when following a schedule like that above is essential really. If you are just starting out then keep the time allotments much shorter, it is also likely you may only have one hour per day to practice if your still at school or are working, so I have written another schedule below for a one hour time window. When writing your own time schedule always allow at least 3 minutes for stretching exercises as these are very important.
|Example 1 hour time schedule|
|Stretching & warm-up||3 minutes|
|Picking exercises||7 minutes|
|Music Theory||10 minutes|
Warm-up, stretch & picking exercises
Now that we have our time schedule all sorted out, it’s time to figure out our warm-up routine. Warming up and stretching are crucially important, if you dive right into difficult chords or riffs everyday without first warming up you risk carpal tunnel syndrome and/or other wrist damage, so always warm-up first!
The first thing to do is to simply rub your hands together like your washing them, for 30 seconds or so, this will actually warm your hands and tendons. Next we shake our hands liberally keeping your hand muscles loose and fluid, we will do this "shake out" in between each exercise. Now we move onto our first exercise shown in figure 2.a below which is bending your fingers and wrist backwards but please take care note to overstretch! This exercise and all others should never be at the point of feeling pain of any sort. You should keep your hand in this position for about 30 seconds, shake out, then repeat it on your other hand.
Now we move onto exercise 2.b below which bends your thumb and wrist in a forwards motion again being careful not to overstretch. Once you have done this for 30 seconds, shake out, then repeat it on your other hand. Finally we just shake out for 10 seconds and were all done stretching.
Below is a picking exercise that you should memorize and play in every practice session. It is a 1, 2, 3, 4 then skip to the next higher string exercise, very simple and very effective. This exercise should be the first playing you do, just after you have finished your stretching exercises. The tablature only shows the exercise going up to the ninth fret but I would play it right up to fret twelve. The most important aspect of this exercise is to play at the fastest speed you can without any mistakes, and you should always play this exercise along to a metronome and keep a record of your speed increases or decreases.
After you have practiced the picking exercise for around 5 to 10 minutes, you can move onto scales, arpeggios and chords.
Well I hope you enjoyed this lesson and discovered how important time management and warming up is. You will find after a few weeks a distinct improvement in your playing if your follow the guidelines in this lesson.
Cheers & enjoy!